The flip side – Chinese Courgette Pancakes

IMG_1362Growing up Pancake Tuesday was a pretty significant day on the calendar, despite the fact that it marked the beginning of lent and that meant giving up sweets and putting any money you had in the Trócaire box. It also signalled that winter might be coming to an end (well it wasn’t as dark when you left school) and even better St. Patrick’s Day was around the corner. That meant a green ice cream and then not long after Easter beckoned, full of creme eggs and the promise of roast lamb. I knew there was good eating ahead…

Firstly though there were pancakes to be had. Time to stuff your face with stacks of flat round friends sprinkled with sugar, lemon and butter drizzling around your hands. I adore this distinctly Irish way of eating them and I’ve got the easy, old school pancake recipe here . I’m so tempted to have them for dinner but my sweet tooth has been replaced by an Asian tooth (if that’s a thing?) and it’s Chinese New Year so these Chinese Courgette Pancakes ticked all the boxes. They are simple, as a pancake should be, and I serve them with my version of Ching-He Huang’s dipping sauce. They also make a great breakfast and they happen to be dairy-free. Go on, take a whisk…


1 courgette
1 bunch spring onions, green bits removed, sliced finely
4 medium eggs
80g buckwheat flour (or any flour you have)
1 tsp Chinese five spice
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

Dipping sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinese vinegar or mirin
½ red chilli, deseeded & finely sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled & finely sliced
1 tsp parsley leaves and stems, finely chopped

Turn your oven on to warming (100c) and put a plate in.
Wash your courgette and slice up using a mandolin if you have one, if not use a box grater.
Into a large bowl, crack your eggs and whisk together with a fork. Add in the flour, Chinese five spice and sesame oil. Mix this all together well and leave for 15 mins. Meanwhile mix together your dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Your batter will seem too dry for a pancake batter but the water from the courgette should start to seep out and make it looser. Give it a mix and see. If it’s still not loose enough for pancake batter after 15 mins or so, you can add a little water to loosen it. Make sure to mix well.
Get a non-stick pan on medium to high heat. Have oil ready for frying and some kitchen roll handy. This and having an oven on warming in the best way to make lots of pancakes.
Using a big spoon or small ladel scoop out a spoon of your batter and get it into the pan, making it into a circular shape. It will cook really fast, less than a minute each side. When the edges look cooked, turn with a fish slice or flip if you are brave. Cook on the other side and then remove from the pan and pop into the warming oven. Keep the kitchen roll close by to wipe the pan out between cakes (off the heat!) to avoid too burning the oil and tainting your pancakes. You will have a stack ready to go in no time.
Serve them piled high with dipping sauce and a little Sriracha.

Happy Pancake Day!

Help – I’m going vegan!

My happy days at Berties Butcher

Yes you read correctly. I’m going vegan – for January. This will be very unexpected to anyone who knows me. I am a dedicated animal product lover. I spent 2012 stocking the wonderful Berties Butcher with the best meats and trying to convince Melbourne to eat more of it. I put butter generously on & in everything. I am generally unbearable without my daily flat white and my morning eggs. I’m also not always the most supportive of vegetarians or vegans friends trying to convince them to come back to the animal goods, to simply make better choices –  Go on, have a little… Not all meat is bad! What about cheese? Who can resist cheese? You get the idea…

So what’s the deal – am I just jumping on the Veganuary band wagon? Well no, that’s just a happy hashtag coincidence. Have I had an epiphany? Well of sorts. And it’s not about the industry being bad, which I know lots of it is. (I always try and make very conscious decisions). What made the difference was being tasked with putting together a vegan eating guide and helping a dedicated meat eater go vegan for a month. I realised how little I knew. Yes I can tell you all the cuts of steak, make all the mother sauces and identify most cheeses by taste. I can write a healthy eating guide, a low budget guide, a seasonal menu. But ask me to write an interesting, achievable, tasty vegan guide for a month. Now that was hard. It’s like I’ve completely ignored veganism. I looked on my heaving shelves of cookbooks for inspiration and couldn’t find a single book that didn’t have meat or dairy. I trawled all my bookmarked recipe sites, pretty much the same. I realised that being a vegan is not easy. And being a food lover and a vegan is even more difficult. Not to mention a wine loving vegan!

So I thought I’d just put it out there and look for a little help & guidance. Share some of my discoveries. And say sorry to any vegans or veggies I’ve offended!

Apprehensively looking forward to a month of experimentation and challenges…



Flying the flag for Irish Food #COYBIG

I’ve had to whisper this the last few weeks but (shhhhh) I’m not a rugby fan. I’ve felt distinctly unpatriotic avoiding the games with excuse after excuse. So, in a way to make up for it, I want to draw attention to some other boys in green, well sort of…chefs that are flying the flag for Irish food. They are taking our favourite hearty Irish foods and making them into world class dishes. Two of the best meals I’ve had recently and perfect examples of this and randomly have been Irish meals in London…

Mark Moriarty cooking at Selfridges, LondonMark dinner 2

Rising young star, Mark Moriarty, recently beat global competition to win the hugely prestigious San Pelligrino Young Chef of the Year competition in Italy, representing Ireland and Britain. With experience in The Ledbury and Restaurant Tom Aikens in London and Dublin’s Thornton’s and The Greenhouse he has had some stellar training and it shows in his cooking. I was lucky enough to sample his recent pop-up dinner in Selfridges in London where I was blown away by his take on traditional Irish dishes…

Mark Moriarty Dinner

Not only did this whole meal taste insanely good Mark also popped out in between each course to talk about the food. The Irish-ness was in the stories as well as the ingredients. The canapé served in a scallop shell inspired by ashtrays you’ll find in pubs all over coastline, the crispy potato skins of his youth, comparing cooking his now signature ‘Lamb in Hay’ to Blur always having to play Country House (It was just after Electric Picnic). His take on bacon and cabbage was somehow a million miles away from the dish we grew up with but also tasted exactly as it should. It was nostalgia at it’s tastiest and incredibly executed.

Mark will be cooking his first dinner in Dublin since winning Young Chef of The Year as part of Taste City Fusion on Friday 23rd October. It’s a Medieval menu he told me was part inspired by Heston Blumenthal’s medieval menu at Dinner. Along with his DIT mentor & head of culinary arts Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire he delved into Irish medieval food history along to devise what I’m sure will be a stunning four course feast. 

Richard Corrigan at Bentley’s, Londonrcgarden1

Meath native Richard has been flying the flag for Irish food for longer than most having won a Michelin star at his original London restaurant, Lindsay House back in 1997. I remember eating there back in 2004 and ordering his star dish crubeens and thinking this is pretty cool. An Irish chef cooking this dish right in the heart of Soho. He went on to be a winning chef Great British Menu three times and consequently was thrust into the limelight as an Irish food ambassador. And boy is he good at it.  From the seaweed butter at the beginning right through to the petit fours I had a list of questions to ask the chef about various tastes and ingredients that blew me away. And you know what the common theme was? Irish ingredients! Here’s a recap of what I had….

Richard Corrigan Lunch

The mussels were the best I’ve ever eaten, big, juicy, tasty. And what really stood out was the broccoli – yep. You could smell the broccoli over the steak, sauces, over anything else. And Richard proudly told me that’s because he grew it himself in Cavan. He’s taken over the beautiful Virginia Park Lodge and has been bountifully growing his own fantastic produce for his restaurants. 

I also want to give a shout out for the chefs that are coming home and doing great things in Dublin. I’m thrilled to see that Paul McVeigh has put away his passport (he was travelling the world cooking with golfer Rory McIllroy) and has now opened super cool steak restaurant on Dawson Street Featherblade and I’m waiting with baited breath to see what ex- London chef (Harwood Arms) Barry Fitzgerald will serve up when he opens his new spot Bastible in the next few weeks in Dublin. #COYBIG

My lunch in Bentley’s was thanks to a trip with Cityjet on their inaugural Cork to London flight. 

The scoop on ice cream

Incredible Irish ice cream, Photo: Murphy’s Ice Cream Facebook

What is it about ice cream? We are head over heels about it in a way that is rarely paralleled with other foods. But it upsets me that it is merely seen a summer romance. It should be so much more! In a country like Ireland, famed for our excellent quality dairy produce worldwide, we should be fully committed to this creamy, cold wonder year round. OK so the weather may play havoc with our relationship but I’ve been looking for some new ideas could add that extra je ne sais quoi to our temperamental ice cream affair. Here’s my scoop on what’s next for ice cream…

Coolhaus pre-packaged sammie, Photo VITO NGUYEN FOR THE HUNDREDS
Coolhaus pre-packaged sammie, Photo: Vito Nguyen for the Hundreds
Natasha Case & Coolhaus truck Photo: Vito Nguyen for The Hundreds
Natasha Case & Coolhaus truck, Photo: Vito Nguyen for The Hundreds

Really cool ice cream trucks….
Forget the aul ice cream van with it’s hypnotic, tinny tune that makes kids go crazy just upon hearing that first chime. We need someone to create our very own Irish version of US ice cream truck Coolhaus. The brainchild of Los Angeles-based Natasha Case, it started out as a thesis project in architecture at UCLA when she started baking cookies, making ice cream, and combining them into “cool houses”. Six years later Coolhaus operates a national fleet of 11 mobile ice cream trucks and carts (5 in Southern California, 3 in NYC, 2 in Austin, and 1 in Dallas). Tahitian vanilla dipped in salt caramel milk chocolate rolled in pretzels anyone? Or what about their famous Mintalimism ice cream sandwich – double chocolate chip cookies with dirty mint ice cream? (I’ve got the recipe here) There’s no plain vanilla on Coolhaus’ list of ice creams. They prefer the weirdly delicious like fried chicken and waffles ice cream and potato chip cookies. Sweet & savoury, cold but oh so hot – It’s mint to be.
Coolhaus on twitter & facebook
Buy their ice cream book here 

MIT student project proves that 3D printing ice cream is a tasty possibility. Photograph: Kristine Bunker
MIT student project proves that 3D printing ice cream is a tasty possibility, Photo: Kristine Bunker

Print your own ice cream…
Here’s one to delight your inner child! Fancy creating and printing your very own ice cream design in 15 minutes? A pie in the sky idea? Not anymore – the geniuses at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have taken the  oh-so trendy 3D printed food  phenomenon to another level and come up with 3D printed ice cream. The savvy students hooked a 3D printer up to a Cuisinart ice cream maker and to create machine that can make on-demand soft serve, according to a report from
They say it’s just a proof version, made to get kids excited about technology, but they hope to develop the concept into a working machine. For now though there’s a brief glimpse at the action in the video below. Now who ordered the ice cream with some printer jam?

Photo: Gelato Messine Facebook
Photo: Gelato Messine Facebook

Kick ass ice cream parlours
While I’m already in a fairly serious relationship with our very own excellent ice cream peddler Murphy’s there is a long distance ice cream love that I long for. Gelato Messina. This Australian Italian inspired ice cream mecca produces the most whimsical, fairytale like ice cream creations I’ve ever seen. OK so gelato is a little different to the ice cream we are used to but with a whole team dedicated to their creative department there are so many notable creations. One of my favourites is the eye catching Dr Evil’s Magic Mushroom below. Filled with Dr Evil gelato (dark chocolate gelato, peanut cookies and dulce de leche) the stalk is filled with dulce de leche caramel surrounded by dark chocolate gelato. The whole mushroom sits upon ‘grass’ made from popping candy and crushed biscuit. Seriously. Past incredible creations that will also blow you away are The Royale with cheese – chocolate crackle gelato, financier bun, white chocolate gelato & apricot gelee, compressed cucumber, white chocolate slice and  The Samurai – gravity defying ice pop of yuzu sorbet, salted caramel and black and red orange scented chocolate. These were both limited edition but with new creations every week there are queues out the door every day. Their top ten flavour combo’s include Salted Caramel with white choc chip & Peanut Butter anything, Pear and Rhubarb & Chocolate Fondant and Poached Figs in Marsala & Gianduia. Oh and and you can also order it via Uber…This is some seriously smooth ice cream.
Gelato Messina on Twitter & Facebook 

Dr Evils Magic Mushroom Photo: Gelato Messina
Dr Evils Magic Mushroom Photo: Gelato Messina

But these are only the tip of the iceberg of the world of ice cream! There are many more mouth watering parlours around the world BuzzFeed Food rounded up 27 of the best here. I also adore the super cool Chin Chin Labs in London a Liquid Nitrogen Ice-Cream Parlour where they make your ice cream right before your eyes. And although it’s not strictly ice cream I have been doing a cheeky sideline with Dublin’s FroYo emporium Yogism recently. It always puts a smile on my face.


Baby’s first taste of ice cream. It’s a thing on You Tube. Oh-so adorable.

LOVE 99’s?The Irish Times is looking for Ireland’s Best 99. Know where it is? Nominate here

There are scientific reasons why we love ice cream

Is ice cream recession proof?

Don’t want to share? Get a lock for you tub now! Ben & Jerry’s have launched security for your ice cream.

Dublin’s Fair City

Apparently there’s ALOT of rain in Dublin right now. The rain is something I don’t miss, but here are some things I do miss (as well as the family, friends and Guinness of course!)

Juniors – my favourite neighbourhood joint

Juniors Deli & Café, 2 Bath Avenue, Dublin 4

Junior's Deli & Cafe - picture from

OK so it was only my neighbourhood for 3 months or so, and I could never figure out if I actually lived in Ringsend, Beggars Bush or Grand Canal. ‘Beside the Aviva’ would usually suffice. But one thing I was sure of was that Junior’s was an excellent place to live beside.

They don’t take bookings but it’s not much of a chore to put your name down on the list and head next door to Slattery’s  for a pint while you wait – the staff will often come into the pub to get you instead of calling, now that’s good service.

I always dither when ordering here as there is usually at least three things I want to eat – so my advice is go as a table of four and convince the others to order the stuff you want to try! Best dish I’ve eaten here was their Italian steak tagliata served on rocket. It was perfectly cooked amazing meat.

Grab a seat outside if you can, there are heaters & blankets to keep you warm. The staff are knowledgeable, fast and cheery. The wine is good and reasonable and the food will not disappoint.  Oh and they do great lunches and brunch on the weekend. And if they’ve got no tables try there sister place around the corner – Paulies Pizza

You’ll be looking up nearby property in no time….

Michie Sushi – best Sushi in Dublin

Michie Sushi, 11 Chelmsford Lane, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

Best sushi - picture from

To be honest I didn’t try much Sushi in Dublin but I don’t think i needed to – once I found this gem, hidden down a laneway in a garage type building in Ranelagh I was hooked. Their sushi got me through a very interesting few months working in Dublin. Takeaway sushi often tends to have cold rice – which invariably means it’s not fresh. Once you’re had fresh, perfectly seasoned sushi rice you won’t scoff your M&S refrigerated version with as much vigour again. Michie has perfected their rice – which means all their sushi is good – I love their salmon and tuna combo and the miso is good too. And the soft shell crab roll is worth making a journey for – although they do a local delivery too.

Nick’s Coffee Company – fine flat whites

Ranelagh Village Market (next to Superquinn), Dublin 6

Now I’m in Sydney I’m spoilt when it comes to coffee but I still miss the taste of my morning takeaway coffee from Nick’s Coffee Company in Ranelagh – I think the hours I was working in Dublin made this coffee all the more special but I’m pretty sure their flat whites could rival the best barista’s creations down under.  They are really into coffee here – lots to try from around the world and they also sell great coffee to take home and pop up at various Dublin markets. If you love coffee make it your business to find them.

Kerry the Kingdom

Kerry the Kingdom

A recent hen weekend in Killarney reminded me of why I LOVE Kerry.  This is just a handful of the brilliant things we did.

Miss Courtney’s Tea Rooms

No. 8 College Street, Killarney

Proper loaded sandwiches

Fast becoming a Killarney institution Miss Courtney’s Tea Rooms are cute, quirky and full of cake. Service was slow but in true Kerry style they were very nice about it. Sandwiches were piled high and smothered in sauces and so refreshing to have a big home style pot of tea with no-questions-asked refills. A slab of flourless chocolate and brandy cake with a big dollop of whipped cream was the perfect beginning to what was a very decadent weekend.

Would definitely go back and try their afternoon tea next time I’m in Killarney as I was envious each time the delicate finger sandwiches drifted by floral printed plates and the waft of the crumbly chunky scones warming under the grill would be hard to resist.

Reading tea leaves. Mystic.

Just Cooking Kerry

Chef Mark. Very much in control.

Being a foodie know it all, I worried that this class booked for 11 hens would leave me starved of proper culinary guidance but I was so wrong. It was warm, engaging, and informative. The wine flowed (excellent choices Bernie!) and as we got rowdier the food seemed to get more plentiful.

Piping. Much hilarity.

The hen assisted with all of the dishes and despite her being a doppelgänger for Bridget Jones there was no blue soup served up just plenty of easy to replicate entertaining dishes and best of all NO WASHING UP!

Our chef Mark was charming and full of helpful advice and well able for 11 of us cackling at piping bags and waving our glasses looking for top ups. Highly recommended and I will definitely be booking one of their new foodie holidays too

Oh and our hotel was great too. Cheap, cheerful & charming. (The night porter John was another one of our best friends!)

Pizza, prosecco & pay as you please

Where? Pay as you please restaurant, Killarney, Co. Kerry

When? Rainy July Hen weekend

Pea & mint soup in a jar with crispy bacon. Yum.

I had found the restaurant  on Facebook and already had a hilarious conversation with one of the team, Rob, about him swimming in a river every summer with a mutual acquaintance. Add to this the ‘Pay as you please concept’ and I knew dinner here would not be a typical night and it didn’t fail to deliver…

Hidden down one of Killarney’s many bustling laneways is the yet un-named restaurant in a converted town house with a ubiquitous chalkboard menu and tiny open kitchen. Laden with clinking bottles and cackling as only a hen party could we were greeted like old friends and our waiter (and soon to be best friend!) set us up outside with a selection of mis-matched glasses and questions galore and we settled in for one of the most entertaining meals I’ve ever had.

Yay. We got a pizza.

The adorable waiters bounced around the place, bowler hats at jaunty angles, ties askew, neon bright trainers,  spilling our prosecco, fishing for compliments and all the time with beaming smiles. I was charmed. They forgot our menu’s, ran out of pizza’s, changed our order numerous times but it didn’t matter, it felt like we were house guests, and important ones at that. And thankfully the only thing not haphazard was the cooking. Everything was fresh, tasty and looked great.
Big servings of pea soup in bread bowls, topped with salty crunchy bacon were spot on. The pizza’s we did manage to procure were excellent and the bruschetta toppings delicious. Toasted hazelnuts in feta salad and citrusy twist to a chorizo and bean stew were also some of the highlights.

‘Pay as you please’ means you pop whatever you think your meal is worth into a box as you leave – a situation that reminded one of putting money in the collection basket at mass. Except for at mass you don’t bring-your-own-booze!

It’s a refreshingly fun way to eat. And would I definitely go again.

Check them out on facebook